Friday, August 18, 2017

Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Mirrors (with Bonus Crochet and Knitting!)

I recently attended the Infinity Mirrors exhibit by Yayoi Kusama, showing at the Seattle Art Museum. I love living in a city that is filled with such interesting and exciting things to do. This exhibit included many fabric-based pieces, so I thought it would be appropriate to share it with you. I tend to stick to fiber arts on this blog; if you'd like to see other interesting things I do and encounter, consider following me on Instagram. I waited in line for two hours to get a ticket to the exhibit. It is only traveling to a few cities in the United States, so I feel lucky to have seen it.

Yayoi Kusama is a Japanese artist who works with repeating patterns and colors. Her personal inspirations, philosophies, and experiences are quite interesting if you're inclined to do some internet research about her. She had a difficult upbringing and was a part of the counterculture. Today, she chooses to live in a psychiatric facility. Her exhibit is a wonderful example of the enrichment that those who struggle with psychological disorders can bring to the world, and specifically to art. Here are some highlights from my visit to her exhibit, along with a few extras from the rest of the museum. I even found some crochet and knitting!

On display were many interesting painted pieces. All of the chunky-looking work was done with stuffed fabric, with painted designs added. They felt like they were alive. One can only imagine how labor-intensive they would be to put together.

Here is one of the infinity mirror rooms, again populated by friendly, squishy, fabric lumps. The experience of being in this field of polka dots was very interesting. This particular room was quite cheerful. Since I went to the museum sans my boyfriend or friends this time, I got to skip many lines and enter with other groups. Thus, I got to experience the rooms over and over. Delightful!

Both times I caught this room on camera, it was green. However, the lights flashed and changed in rainbows of colors. It was spectacular! Each mirror cube limited you to a short period of time, usually 20 to 30 seconds. I think the artist wanted this for several reasons. First, there were many people who wanted to enjoy the exhibit, so times had to be short. Second, if you looked too long in the rooms your eyes and brain might habituate. This means you would start to notice reference points, like the seams in the mirrors, and a bit of the magic would be lost. Finally, infinity is made more special when we only get glimpses of it. I left the exhibit with a craving for more, which would likely please Kusama.

This whole section was love-themed and very sweet. I found this to be the most whimsical part of the exhibit. Also, I love the way that the horizon dips inside the mirror-sphere in the leftmost picture. It really gave me the sense that there was something beyond.

This is the Obliteration Room. It started out completely white. All of the dots that you see were added by museum patrons. I got to add my own dots, too!

This mirror room was my absolute favorite. It was so magical that my eyes misted over the first time I walked in. By now, you all know how space-obsessed I am. I think that this experience was the closest I have ever felt to being surrounded by stars. Since it was dark, you couldn't see the lines in the mirrors very much. It felt real, like I was really standing in a different realm for a few brief moments. I couldn't stop myself from using my singles-line privileges to view this room about five times in total. The whole exhibit was really wonderful.

Even though I had been on my feet for hours by this point, I made sure to stroll through the rest of the museum. Above is a small collection of art that made a particular impression on me, including a wood-paneled room from the late 1500s. I suppose I really do love immersive experiences! SAM is very nicely curated.

I promised you crochet, and here it is! There was a super interesting piece on display that was an amalgamation of fabric swatches sewn together by Nick Cave. It included many knit swatches and also crochet rounds.

My day at the museum was delightful indeed. I encourage anyone who gets the chance to go see Kusama's art.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Sweet As Honey Commission

I have a dirty secret to share... I don't really enjoy doing commissions. Part of the reason that I love being a designer is that I never have to make the same thing twice. Instead, I get to come up with brand new ideas, occasionally working up other people's patterns as well. Commissions almost always end up being something I made in the past, someone saw, and then wanted me to make again for them. I value and thank all of my previous commission customers, but it is highly unlikely that I will accept another commission unless it is extremely unique.

I love my Sweet As Honey pattern. It has brought so many people to Illuminate Crochet, and I am very thankful for that as well. It is fitting that my last official commission be based on that pattern. Alex, one of my best friends, wanted a miniature version of it to hang on his wall. I worked it up in Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light, a fingering weight yarn. Here is the finished product, along with a  few process photos. The work will eventually be framed. I am happy that it is finally complete.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Knit Yarn Bomb Spotted in Seattle

A while back I was walking from Capitol Hill to downtown Seattle, when I happened to spy this lovely knit yarn bomb on a sculpture outside Cornish College of the Arts. Such a stylish wrap the figure has!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Crochet Shrimp Amigurumi

Alexis, my former co-worker turned friend, has the most adorable child. (She's also an excellent hat model.) He is currently three years old and melt-your-heart cute. I always enjoy the stories Alexis shares about him, especially the funny things that he says.

One day, Alexis was working one-on-one with an elementary student who attends the school that I manage. She planned a mosaic art project for the day, a snowman made of ripped pieces of construction paper. Upon returning home, she shared her example project with her son. The following is my best second-hand account of their conversation:

Alexis: "Look what I made at work today. What is it?"

Adorable child: "It IS... a shrimp!"

Alexis: "... a what?"

Adorable child: "It IS a shrimp!" *points to nose of snowman*

Alexis: "No... see? It's a snowman."

But alas, the little one was insistent that the snowman's nose was a shrimp. He didn't stop there, either. Over the next several weeks, he declared several other things to be shrimp, including a slice of lemon in a glass of water. I decided that I needed to make the little dude a crochet shrimp, so that when he emphatically declared "it IS a shrimp" he would be right. When Alexis mentioned that I was making a shrimp for him, he commented "Oh! It will be tasty."

I'm not sure how tasty it is, but here is the shrimp. I made it with leftover yarn from my Sushi Baby Set, which worked out quite well. I recorded pattern notes for the shrimp, but don't have an official pattern for it yet. I may develop one later if there is interest.

Alexis has mentioned that her son is quite pleased with his acquisition.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Giant Crochet Pineapple

A few weeks ago my dear friend Nicki was visiting someone in Chicago. The hotel she was staying in held a giant crochet pineapple! Being the wonderful friend that she is, she dutifully photographed said pineapple so that I could share it with all of you. It was created by crochet artist Gina Rose Gallina, whose work has also been featured such places as Vogue Knitting Live. Cool!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Review: June Cashmere DK Yarn

Today, I'll be reviewing Cashmere DK yarn from June Cashmere. Disclaimer: I received this complimentary yarn in exchange for a review. I am not being paid to write this review and everything shared here is my real opinion. June Cashmere as a company is really interesting and worth reading about. Check them out!

When I received this review yarn in the mail, I was very excited. It is completely gorgeous and soft. Also, the lot for the colorway was 1! I've never had that happen before. Very cool. I was feeling old-school that day, so I even wound it by hand instead of using a winder. There were no snags in the hank at all, making winding no problem.

To be honest, I was concerned about one thing; I only had 50g of yarn to test with. As you may know, I am looking to improve my knitting skills. Crochet is my first and forever fiber love, but branching out into new territories is good for everyone. Plus, knitting illuminates my crochet skills and design ideas in new ways! Since knitting tends to use about 1/3 less yarn than crochet (on average), I decided that I had better knit with my precious June Cashmere in order to stretch it out.

The yarn and the project ended up being a heavenly match. I chose this fox scarf pattern, but I diverged from it quite a bit. I had exactly the right amount of yarn, with a touch leftover. The yarn was very pleasant to knit with and produced crisp stitches. I supplemented with some stash DK in the appropriate colors.
I don't think I could have chosen a better yarn for my fox scarflette if I'd tried. The color, Pumpkin, was spot-on. I totally adore the finished project. Usually, I would love to tell you about the alterations I made to a pattern as I worked it up. However, this time I just went with the flow. I practiced my knitting shaping in a very organic way and didn't write anything down.

Thank you to June Cashmere for letting me test their yarn. I unhesitatingly recommend it, especially for its rich colors and stitch definition. Maybe I can squeeze a tiny project out of the leftovers!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Glamping with Your Fugly Scrap Rug

Hello! Welcome to my day on Crochetville's 2017 National Crochet Month Blog Tour. I hope you'll stick around and roast a marshmallow or two. Check out my post on Crochetville's page to learn more about me as a designer. Amy and Donna have put in a lot of work to make this blog tour possible, as have all of the featured designers, dyers, and yarn stores.

The theme of this year's tour is glamping, which is glamorous camping. I have to say, I've never been glamping... but I have been camping quite a few times. My favorite place to visit is Lake Trillium in Oregon. The scenery is stunning and the water is great for canoeing. It is named after the trillium flower. Some varieties of trillium are protected by law. They are very special and live especially long lives.

When I go camping, I really dislike having dirt or sand tracked into my tent. I always have a small rug in front so that I can leave my shoes outside. When thinking about a blog tour project, I wanted to design a rug for this purpose. However, who would want to leave their lovely finished crochet project outside on the ground and put their shoes all over it? Finally, it hit me; the rug has to be ugly for you to want to walk all over it. Nay, not even just ugly -- fugly. I bring you the Fugly Scrap Rug!

This rug is a 2 for 1 deal. It will just eat up all of your worsted scraps while also providing you with a sturdy rug that you don't feel bad about stepping on. It was so effective at getting rid of my scraps, I was worried I would run out! Are you ready to learn how to make your very own fugly rug? 

The process is very simple. The only things you have to know are how to chain, single crochet, and weave in ends. You're going to be making your own thick yarn by chaining with regular yarn and then using a big hook to crochet with the chain. I recommend using a 5.5mm or 6mm hook for the chaining and a 9mm or 10mm hook for the crocheting.

Start by making a chain with one of your scrap balls and the smaller hook. Keep on chaining until you have used up all but the last six inches or so of the yarn. 

Next, attach your chain-yarn to the bigger hook with a slip knot. Begin chaining with the chain just as you would if it was regular yarn.

Chain with the big hook until you reach the desired width of your rug.

Now, just as with traditional single crochet, it's time to work into the starting chain. Turn, skipping one chain stitch. Work single crochet stitches into the chain. I worked into the back loops of the chain to make it easy on myself. Don't let your tension be too tight, which is the main challenge while working with such thick chain-yarn. Continue single crocheting, turning and chaining one at the end of rows.

When you run out of chain-yarn, it is time to attach your next scrap. Just go ahead and pull the new strand through the final loop and start chaining with it as shown in the photo above. You can tug on each end a bit to make it more secure. You will weave those ends in later when the rug is finished.

That's all there is to it! Keep adding chain-yarn and then single crocheting with it until your rug is the desired length. I made my rug with all worsted scraps, but you could use all bulky or all DK if you wanted. It might be cool to make place mats using this method as well. Don't worry about the materials that the yarn is made of. If some of it felts in the wash, it will just add to the delightful fugliness!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Unexpected Knit Cowl

Sometimes projects don't turn out how you thought they would. When that happens, it can be a bit discouraging. However, finding the unexpected value in a project gone awry can help you to relax and save you a bit of heartache.

Remember this scrap project that I started forever ago? Well, I completely stalled out on it. I got bored. I was knitting round and round and round... and... *yawn*. It did not end up being the giant scarf that I had planned on. So, I reassessed my work and found the value; I turned it into a small cowl instead by blocking it out fairly aggressively.

As it turns out, I really like it this way! It was a good way to use up some nicer fingering weight scraps. It was also a nice mindless project to work on at my fiber group while we chatted. Hopefully I can carry this momentum into other stalled projects.

Have you had any projects turn out differently than you expected?

Friday, February 17, 2017

Snow Blossom Beanie

It's almost time for spring! Boy, am I ready. The winter weather around Washington hasn't been as intense as other parts of the country (my friends in Portland and Boise were drowning in snow!), but it's definitely time for the grey to make way for green. Appropriately, today I released my Snow Blossom Beanie, which is perfect for the last of the chill. It is available on Ravelry and Craftsy. Thanks go out to the lovely Alexis for modeling.

The Snow Blossom Beanie reflects the hopeful transition from winter into early spring. It is delicate and feminine with sweet little flowers. Surface crochet and appliques provide nice texture and stand out in the cold. The pattern includes a chart, written instructions, and a short photo tutorial on surface crochet. The yarn used to make this pattern has unfortunately been discontinued. Alternative yarns are suggested.